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The dedicated sculpture cubicles, at Kailasanathar Temple, 
Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu. Photo: Bharat Bhushan 





Bharat Bhushan 

© Harini 

In memory of Harini (1987-1991) 

she came on a short journey, and made us happy... 

Photographs, Cover Design and Art: Pritvi Bharat 
Cover: Shiva and Arjuna. Kailasanathar Temple, Kanchipuram 

All rights reserved. This book may be reproduced or utilised in any 
form or by any means, electronics or mechanical including 

photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval 
system, without permission in writing from the publishers. 

This book is distributed with the condition that it should be given, 
distributed and circulated to those in the journey to discover Shiva. It 
should not be sold or resold. Please use for non-profit purposes only. 

In gratitude to friends for creating magic and guiding me - 

Sejal Chevli, Neetin Desai and Balaji Jairam Naidu 

And my daughter, Pritvi, because of whom I have truly been blessed 


Keywords: Shiva, Rudra, Mahabharata, Ramayana 

Author: Bharat Bhushan 

ISBN-978-81-909471-4-5 (Paper Edition) 

ISBN-978-81-909471-5-2 (Internet e-Edition) 

First published: August 2011 

Published by : 

Shri Datta Sahakari Society, Akshaya Harini, 

Plot No. 11, Laxmi Niwas, Nangargaon, Lonavala 410401 

E-mail :£> 

na nonanunno nunnono 

nana nananana nanu \ 

nunno'nunno nanunneno 

nanena nunnanunnanut II 

Those with many faces (nananana), he, most certainly (nanu) 
would not be a man (nana), who would face defeat by one who 
is lesser to him in skills (una-nunno). As would be him, who 
could never be a man (na-ana), as would he, who would attack 
or harass him who is lesser to him in ability or achievements 
(nunnono). He, who would follow a leader who has never faced 
defeat (na-nunneno), and whenever in retreat, is never defeated 
(nunno'nunno). He, who would further destroy or, attack the one 
who is totally defeated (nunna-nunna-nut) would never escape 
the fates of sin (nanena). - From the Kiratarjuniya of Bharavi. 

Kiratarjuniya battle at Kailasanathar temple, Kanchipuram. 

Shiva, answer me when I seek you. 

A single incense stick. Smoke willowing silently upwards. 

Prayer beads twirling through my fingers, bead by bead. 

I seek you, O Maheshwara, with the words that I know. 

O Shankara, I call you, with the words that I love. 

I dare not tell others that you talk to me, when I call. 

I fear the thoughts that they may think me to be mad. 

Everyone calls out to their loved ones, to their god. 

Why not me? I seek you out every night with the words. 

I thank you, O Eshwara, for you seem to know my thoughts. 

Each time I want to stop praying to you, for fear of others. 

Each time I want to stop praying to you, in anger at events. 

You come back, with more faith in me, than me in you. 

Why do you love me, so ? Why do you call out to me, thus ? 

I have to but only think of you, and you answer swiftly. 

I try to seek you at a place, any place, and you call me there. 

You carry me by yourself, I know, for I can feel the strength. 

I see you everywhere. You come as friends and strangers. 

You seek to help, guide, initiate and yet, allow me to choose. 

I seem to have a choice, but I feel helpless within you. 

Am I within you, or do I feel that it is you within me ? 

Those who speak of Shiva, of you, of your temple, of praying to you, 

They come out of everywhere, and I meet them everyplace. 

I did not know them before or will not know them later. 

Every devotee speaking your name becomes a good friend, thus. 

The good man who taught me the shadakshara, and the japa. 

The elder who seemed to have no faith in me, but did, later. 

The sadhu who insisted that I learn the panchakshara stotra, 

I am grateful that you came to me, through each one of them. 

I fail in my faith, in my devotion, day after day after day, 

Those close to me, they ridicule, and feel I play with you, 

I close my eyes, and I feel that I play with you, day after day, 

And I am happy, that I fail in my faith, in my devotion. 

You came to me, for sure, when I tried to meet you in rain, 

in snow, and at night, up in the Himalayas, at Kedar, 

You came to me, to give strength and to help me climb, 

And then, you went away, and I seek you, since then. 

You are unseen as Eshwara at Dondra in Lanka, 

and yet, I could meet you and again as Muneswara, 

You did not fail me, you did not stop having faith in me, 

I could meet you where many others could not, ever. 

The friend who called me to travel, and helped me do so, 

The friend who came with me on my travels, and stayed with me, 

The friend who will travel with me, in the future, 

I know that they are but, you, O Maheshwara, O Shiva, 

You have faith in me, even if I test you, day after day, 

You know more about me, than I can ever, about you. 

I shall seek you, and shall search for you, and will meet you. 

The Panchakshara, Om, and the Japa, will never cease. 

Om namah shivaayaa.... Om 

Shiva, amazing archer 
Astras of the gods 

It is thus written in ancient Indian mythology, that there could be 
more than 3,300 astras of the gods, especially the main vedic 
gods. Some of the important or often-mentioned astras include 
the brahmastra and the pasupatastra. Astras were meant to fight 
the wars of the gods against demons, asuras and rakshasas. 
Sometimes, the super-weapons were granted to devout asuras or 
rakshasas, as a result of stupendous meditation upon Gods. The 
Indrastra, Asurastra, Pramohana-astra, Devi-astra, Pashupati- 
astra or Pasupatastra, Shakti-astra, and the Chakra-astra were 
used in these wars and are mentioned on various occasions in the 

Indra had his Vajra, the thunderbolt, while Shiva was known for 
his astras, the lightning-bolts. The Hiranyastra was one of the 
vajras of Indra, the Marutastra was the astra of the Maruts, and 
the Agni-astra, belonged to Bhairava and Shakti. There are many 
other similarly significant astras that are known to be 
particularly useful, such as the Vidyastra, the weapon of 
intellect, and the Vira Jayastra, the weapon for victory. 

There are several weapons known in Hindu mythology. Each 
super-weapon is ascribed to their specified gods. These include 
the Agneyastra, Brahmastra, Sudarsana Chakra, Pasupatastra, 
Trishul, Garudastra, Varunastra and the Narayanastra. These 
weapons were used for deliberate purposes. The Agneyastra was 
to invoke fire upon the enemy, the Nagastra would bring forth 
thousands of poisonous snakes and the Varunastra was invoked 
to bring forth water to fight fire. 

The Brahmastra of Indra or the Pasupatastra of Shiva or the 
Narayanastra of Vishnu could only be used once, when invoked 
in war, against one particular enemy, and therefore had to be 

utilised with great care. Upon use, these specific astras would 
return to the original owner. Rama used the Narayanastra in the 
battle with Ravana. The astra was later used by Ashwattama, son 
of Dronacharya, at Kurukshetra, on behalf of the Kauravas. 

Created by Brahma, the Brahmastra is supposed to be one of hte 
most deadly weapons ever used in battle. The Brahmadanda, 
another super weapon, which was also created by Brahma, could 
counter the Brahmastra. The warrior could receive the weapon 
from Brahma after years of dedicated meditation, and only if 
blessed with the permission to use the Brahmastra in battle. It 
could only be used once in the lifetime of a warrior, and was to 
be used with great hesitation, for it could destroy the local 
habitat and cause famine and drought for years to come. 

Another weapon, the Brahmashira, also created by Brahma, with 
four times the destructive power of the Brahmastra, was 
supposed to be within the realm of knowledge and with the 
permission to use in battle, with Arjuna of the Pandavas and 
Ashwattama, in the army of the Kauravas. 

Vishwamitra used the Brahmastra in his battle against 
Vashishta, but was defeated by the use of Brahmadanda against 
the astra. Rama is known to have used the Brahmastra as his 
final solution and weapon against Ravana. The Ramayana also 
mentions the use of the Brahmastra by Meghnad against 
Hanuman during his first visit in search of Sita. Lakshmana had 
the power to invoke the Brahmastra, and wished to do against 
Meghnad, but was prevented from doing so, by Rama. 

Kama wished to use the Brahmastra against Arjuna but is unable 
to do so, as he forgets the invocation, due to an earlier curse by 
Parashurama. Ashwattama's invocation against Arjuna escapes 
the target due to Krishna's actions, but retains its momentum 
until it finds its target in the womb of Uttara, and endangers the 
unborn Parikshit, son of Abhimanyu. 

A rare astra, usually never mentioned in other Puranas or the 
Vedas, is the Vaishnavastra of Vishnu, and known to be absolute 
in its intensity, and a weapon that could not be defeated. Vishnu 
himself could only withdraw it, after having been shot at the 
enemy. King Bhagadatta of Prajyogasta (= modern day 
Myanmar), son of Narakasura, used the Vaishnavastra against 
Arjuna at Kurukshetra without realising that Krishna, the avatar 
of Vishnu, was the charioteer and could stop the astra from 
killing Arjuna. 

The most destructive astra of all, the Pashupati-astra of Rudra, 
was the most feared, since it belonged to Durga, the destructive 
manifestation of Parvati. Blessed by Shiva, Pashupatinath, and 
taught the manner of use of the astra, are two of the most 
significant individuals in the ancient puranas. 

Shiva blessed Meghnad, the son of Ravana, in the Treta Yuga 
and Arjuna, the third of the Pandavas, in the Dvapara Yuga, with 
the Pasupatastra. Both warriors were instructed to be careful in 
the use of the astra, for it was the most destructive weapon of 
Shiva, capable of being discharged even by a thought in the 
mind, eyes, words or a bow. The pre-condition was to use it only 
for dharma. 

The paradox is paramount in the nomenclature of the astras, 
when one considers the pasupatastra. Shiva, or Pashupatinath, 
is also known as the Lord of the animals, and their protector. So, 
how could the pasupatastra be thus named, to be the most 
destructive of all, capable of destroying creation itself? 

Arjuna in the Kirata-arjuna sculpture at Kailasanathar Temple 

Shiva in the Kirata-arjuna sculpture at the Kailasanathar Temple 

rudra - amazing archer 

Shiva, amazing archer 
Arjuna seeks Rudra 

The best of the stories about the astras, is from the best story of 
all times, the Mahabharata, and presents two of the most 
excellent individuals in the pantheon of India's puranas (= 
ancient vedic and pre-vedic epics), Shiva and Arjuna. These 
epics have been written and re-written by countless ancient 
authors within the great epics themselves, and also as separate 
stories that present amazing situations in an epic-poem or ballad 
or within a collection of other stories. 

In brief, Arjuna, the third of the Pandavas, was the hero of the 
Mahabharata, the chosen one of Krishna and the recipient of the 
Bhagavad Gita. He was the wielder of the mighty bow, the 
Gandiva, and the one who had the secret of wielding the 
Pasupatastra, given to him by none other than Shiva himself. 

Arjuna was the thought-conceived son of celestial Indra, and 
Kunti, the elder wife of Pandu. He was younger to Yudhistra and 
Bhima, and elder to Nakula and Sahadeva. He was the rare and 
amazing archer who could expertly wield the bow with both the 
hands, and was thus, known as Savyasachi. Similar to the marital 
exploits of Krishna, Kaunteya (= son of Kunti, i.e. Arjuna) is 
known to have more than forty main wives and perhaps, more 
than a hundred others. 

The Mahabharata mentions four wives, Subhadra, Draupadi, 
Chintrangada and Ulupi, to be role players who influence him. It 
is however, his marriage with Draupadi that brings forth the 
central story of the Mahabharata, and leads to determined enmity 
and rivalry with his cousins, the Kauravas, and especially, the 

rudra - amazing archer 

eldest, Duryodhana, who could not forgive or forget her scornful 
laughter, when he slips and falls in the maya (= magic) palace at 
Indraprastha (= modern day Delhi). 

There is also an ancient, pre-Mahabharata and pre-Vedic element 
in the story, in depicting the companionship of Krishna and 
Arjuna. The former, of course, is the avatar of Vishnu, or 
Narayana himself, while Arjuna is considered to be an avatar or 
a manifestation of Nara. Nara and Narayana were steadfast 
companions from pre-vedic times, and were known as sages, 
celestial beings and among the core group of devas (= gods) 
from the most ancient of times. If Narayana was to be an avatar 
on earth, as Krishna, could Nara be left behind? Arjuna is also 
usually presented as a manifestation of Adisesha, the serpent- 
guardian of Narayana, among his many manifestations of Nara. 

Being close to Krishna, during the years leading on to the war to 
be finally waged at Kurukshetra, Arjuna brings himself to accept 
and acknowledge the acclamation that he is closer to Krishna, 
than the other Pandavas or the Kauravas. He is also 
acknowledged as the most excellent among all the warrior 
princes, and is duly accepted as the best among the best, by his 
own teachers, including the perceptor, Dronacharya and the 
mentor, Kripacharya. 

Arjuna, is of course, known mostly for his refusal to wage war 
against the Kauravas, especially against his own elders, teachers, 
cousins, uncles and the grandsire, Bheeshma. He places down 
the mighty Gandiva in the chariot, and it requires Krishna to 
explain to Arjuna that he would have to fight. The advice given 
by Krishna, as the Bhagavad Gita, is the basis of many a modern 
book on management in various versions, and has been presented 
similarly over many thousands of years. 

rudra - amazing archer 

His most famous victory is over Kama, who he did not know as 
his own elder brother. He did not know that he would eventually 
kill his elder brother. Arjuna was never told the secret that Kunti 
held close to herself, that Krishna never disclosed, and that 
Bheeshma never allowed to be shared. That victory is also 
particularly significant in the war at Kurukshetra, for it depicts 
the use of astras by Kama and Arjuna, given to them by the 
Gods for use in the war. 

Duryodhana knew that Arjuna was the most dangerous amongst 
the Pandavas, when the war at Kurukshetra was to begin. 
Therefore, he asked Kama to focus entirely on Arjuna. Also, 
when Kunti asked Kama to spare her five sons, he replied, that 
after the war, she would be left only with five sons, for it would 
be either Kama or Arjuna, who would be killed in battle. Thus, 
Kama declared that he would not attempt to kill any of the other 
Pandavas during the war at Kurukshetra. 

Maharathis (= great warriors), Arjuna and Kama, knew that the 
other was an equal expert, and could not be defeated unless they 
used weapons received from the Gods themselves, for they had 
already mastered the weapons made by and used by humans. 
Dhananjaya, as Arjuna was also known, knew that the warriors 
to be defeated at Kurukshetra were Bheeshma, Drona and Kama, 
for none of the other Pandavas could gain victory over these 
maharathis. Arjuna would have to do so, himself. 

Arjuna was known to be a favourite disciple of Dronacharya, the 
perceptor-tutor of war to both the Pandavas and the Kauravas. 
He was known to be the chosen, being the brother-in-law of 
Krishna, having married Subhadra. The grandsire, Bheeshma, 
knew that Arjuna would never stray from the side of his elder 
brother, Yudhistra, even if tempted with the kingship of distant 

rudra - amazing archer 

His skill with archery is demonstrated on two occasions in the 
Mahabharata. In his youth, he shoots at the eye of the parrot, 
after helping Dronacharya demonstrate the aspect of isolated 
determination and focus of a warrior. Later, he shoots at the eye 
of a rapidly moving fish, high up above, by looking at the 
reflection in the water below, and thus winning the hand of 
Draupadi in marriage. 

Some rare epic-stories mention that Draupadi was blessed by 
Shiva, in one of her earlier births, of being wedded to five 
husbands, when in her excitement at being blessed by 
Maheshwara, she asked five times, excitedly, for a hero-like 
husband, and it was thus granted. 

Another story goes that Draupadi requested Shiva, in one of her 
earlier births that she should get five of the most impossible 
hero-like qualities in her husband, and she was blessed with five 
husbands who would each have one aspect of the most 
impossible hero-like qualities that she desired. 

These stories of Draupadi and her previous births are rarely 
known or heard, and her association or devotion to Shiva is also 
rarely mentioned. It is however indeed significant, in the events 
that were to unfold before the war to be fought at Kurukshetra. 

The story of Arjuna obtaining the mighty bow, the Gandiva, is 
depicted in much detail in the Mahabharata. After their earlier 
period of hiding due to the burning down of the lac palace, and 
the wedding of Draupadi and Arjuna, the Pandavas returned to 
Hastinapura. Dhritarastra, father of the ruling Kauravas, upon the 
advice and guidance of Krishna, decided to establish peace by 
giving the forested Khandava region to the Pandavas to develop 
a new kingdom. 

rudra - amazing archer 

Krishna, Yudhistra, Bhima and Arjuna visited the Khandava 
forests to determine the manner in which the forests could be 
removed to make way for a large city. They met Agni, the god of 
fire, at the Khandava forest, who had an earlier problem of 
having consumed ghee (= clarified butter) in disproportionate 
amounts to wood in several yagnas (= sacrificial rituals) by a 
certain King. The god of fire explained to Krishna that he needed 
to consume a large forest to cure himself, and offered to help the 
Pandavas by devouring the Khandava forest. 

Agni, the god of fire, had tried to destroy the Khandava forest 
earlier, but had failed. Takshaka, the king of serpents, and a 
close friend of Indra ruled the forest. Whenever threatened by 
fire, Takshaka sought Indra's help, who in turn caused heavy 
rains and prevented the destructive intentions of the god of fire. 
Krishna and Arjuna decide to help Agni, and thereby remove the 
Khandava forests to allow for the construction of their new city. 

Arjuna, Krishna and Agni discussed the strategy to attack 
Takshaka and counter the eventual battle with Indra's astras. 
Knowing that their weapons could not face up to the wrath of 
Indra, Arjuna asked Agni to help by providing superior weapons, 
capable of fighting a war against Indra. 

Agni sought the blessings of Varuna, the god of the oceans, for 
who else could provide better weapons against the thunderbolts 
of Indra, that caused unceasing rainfall and thunderstorms. 
Varuna brought forth the mighty bow, the Gandiva, made by 
Brahma himself, and known to be forever victorious in battle. 
The ocean-god also brought forth a chariot with divine white 
horses that would never tire and could never be injured in battle. 

Armed and blessed, Arjuna and Krishna rode clockwise and 
anticlockwise, around Khandava and protected Agni who began 

rudra - amazing archer 

to consume the forests. Takshaka, the serpent-king, invoked 
Indra's support and received his thunderbolts and an ensuing 
rainstorm. The battle between father and son, Indra and Arjuna, 
was fought over several days, with the Gandiva countering the 
thunder and rain over Khandava. Arjuna and Krishna won the 
battle eventually, and the forest was destroyed entirely. 

Takshaka, the serpent-king, escaped the destruction and sought 
sanctuary from Kama. In return, Takshaka promised Kama that 
he would provide the destructive force to his arrows, by 
providing the poison to be placed on the tips of the arrows of the 
King of Anga. In gratitude and by providing a safe haven, Kama 
placed Takshaka in a vital role in the eventual battle to be fought 
at Kurukshetra. 

There was another important individual who escaped the wrath 
of Agni on Khandava. Maya, an asura, came out of the fire, and 
sought sanctuary with Arjuna. The elder brother, Yudhistra, 
knowing Maya's capabilities, offered him the task of 
constructing the city of Indraprastha, to be built on the Khandava 
forest lands, in the aftermath of Agni's hunger for wood. Maya, a 
master architect, constructed the magical palace of Indraprastha, 
known after him as the Mayasabha, that was the eventual cause 
of Duryodhana's jealousy, the scorn of Draupadi, the venue of 
the game of dice to be played, and the disrobing of Panchali (= 
Draupadi) by Dushasana and the eventual exile of the Pandavas. 

It is in the fifth year of the exile imposed by the Kauravas, that 
Arjuna, Krishna, Yudhistra and Bhima discussed the eventual 
Great War that would have to be fought on their return to 
Hastinapura. They knew that Duryodhana would not be gracious 
and would not return the kingdom of Indraprastha. Yudhistra 
decided that they should utilise their years of exile in preparing 
for war, and in ensuring that Arjuna, their best Maharathi, 

rudra - amazing archer 

should be equipped with the best of weapons, including those 
from the Gods themselves. 

Krishna advised Arjuna to travel to the higher reaches of the 
Himalayas and meditate upon Shiva and seek his blessings to 
receive the most powerful of weapons that would be needed in 
critical moments of the eventual Great War. Krishna was aware 
that the most important battle would be between Kama and 
Arjuna. He was keen that Arjuna should most definitely win the 
battle with Kama, and was also aware that Goddess Durga had 
herself blessed the King of Anga earlier, to allow him to use her 
Shakti-astra in battle. 

To counter the several super-weapons that Kama, Bheeshma, 
Drona, Kripacharya and other Maharathis would have in their 
possession, it was necessary that Arjuna should seek the 
blessings of Rudra himself, the ultimate master of the astras, 
super-weapons and the science of their use in war. Krishna, who 
was aware that he was an avatar of Vishnu, knew that Shiva's 
help would be most important, and if received, the Pandavas 
would not lose. Arjuna would be blessed by the best of the 
warriors among the Gods. 

The Pandavas in exile, in their fifth year, discussed the 
eventuality of having to wage war against the Kauravas to 
repossess their kingdom. A spy returned from Hastinapura with 
the news that Duryodhana and Sakuni had determined that they 
would not return Indraprastha to the Pandavas after their exile. 
Yudhistra knew that this was to be expected and informed the 
Pandavas about Duryodhana's plans. 

Bhima and Draupadi became angry and felt that they were 
wasting their best years in exile when they could easily go to war 
and win against the Kauravas, since Duryodhana would not 

rudra - amazing archer 

honour his promise to return the kingdom. Yudhistra refused the 
suggestion, indicating that they would need to continue in exile 
since they had given their word and would have to live by it. 

Draupadi, upset with Yudhistra, and asked as to how he could 
agree to live by his word when it was obvious that Duryodhana 
would not keep up the other side of the agreement. Bhima was 
determined that war was the only answer, and they would need 
to break their agreement and return from exile. Bhima felt that it 
would be humiliating to have to receive their kingdom from 
Duryodhana rather than winning it on the battlefield. 

Yudhistra did not agree with Bhima and Draupadi and insisted 
that he would rather stay on the correct side of dharma (= the 
rightful way of life) and would want for the Pandavas to 
continue with the exile. The great Maharishi Veda Vyasa visited 
the Pandavas at that moment and discussed the possibility of war 
with the Kauravas and Duryodhana's determination to refuse to 
return Indraprastha after the period of exile. 

The Pandavas discussed the need to prepare for the war with the 
Kauravas, for it would be the final battle, and they would need to 
win, by defeating and killing their own cousins, and also the 
other great kings and rulers and tribes who would come to 
support Duryodhana. It would be necessary for the Pandavas to 
also seek support and agreements from other kings, rulers and 
tribes to fight the war against the Kauravas. 

Yudhistra and Vyasa agreed that they could depend upon 
Krishna to seek out kings, rulers and other tribes to decide if they 
would support the Pandavas and fight the Great War on their 
side, against the Kauravas. Who else, other than Krishna, could 
get the many kings and rulers to agree to fight on the side of the 
Pandavas, who did not even have a kingdom to defend? 


rudra - amazing archer 

However, Vyasa suggested to Yudhistra, that it would have to be 
Arjuna who would have to travel away from the Pandavas and 
seek help from Rudra and Indra, for obtaining the blessings and 
the secret mantras (= incantations) to use super-weapons, or 
astras, if the gods would bless them with their support. Vyasa 
advised the Pandavas that they would need to prepare during 
their later years of exile in planning for the eventual Great War 
with the Kauravas. 

The great Maharishi suggested that Arjuna should proceed to the 
higher Himalayas and place himself in strenous meditation to 
propitiate his divine father, Indra, and seek his blessings and gain 
the ability to use the Brahmastra and other astras. Draupadi 
agreed with Veda Vyasa and reminded Arjuna that the attempt 
would be better than wasting away the years in exile and doing 
nothing. She emphasised that Partha (= Arjuna) should be very 
determined in his meditation and should ensure that he would 
return with the super-weapons of Indra to avenge her humiliation 
by the Kauravas in front of her exalted and supposedly expert 
warrior husbands. 

Arjuna traveled away from the Pandavas and Draupadi with a 
heavy heart, and reached the higher Himalayas, beyond the peak 
of Kailasa. He settled down in meditation at the Indrakila peak, 
the abode of the gods. Arjuna established a routine of determined 
and austere meditation and created waves of focused energy, 
seeking Indra, and disturbing the heavens. The gods decided to 
test him and sent forth heavenly and divine damsels. These 
apsaras traveled through the heavens, singing and dancing and 
indulging in tempting behaviour that would disturb a steadfast 

The damsels came about, near Arjuna, and began to try and 
disturb him from his meditation. They had a goal, and that was to 

rudra - amazing archer 

try and get Arjuna to fall in love with them. They failed in their 
attempts, for instead of getting Arjuna to fall in love with them, 
the heavenly apsaras fell in love with the great warrior. 

Knowing that his son sought him, and stayed determined in his 
search, Indra came to the Indrakila Mountains, to bless Arjuna. 
However, the father wished to test the son, and therefore, 
disguised as a mortal sage, he enquired from Arjuna about why 
would a person resort to meditation, a method that was to be 
utilised only after one had given away all his possessions and 
material life. 

The sage-Indra asked Arjuna if he would succeed in his mission 
through meditation, if the goals were contrary to austerities and 
he were to retain his possessions, wage war, and protect his 
kingdom and would eventually continue as a King. Would that 
not be against the principles of dhyana (= meditation) and 
asceticism? For after all, asceticism did imply the aspect that all 
material wealth was fickle, and there would also be a time and 
moment when they could also lose the kingdom and whatever 
they would possess, even if they would win the war. 

Arjuna explained his actions and the need to resort to meditation 
and told the sage-Indra that the determination to be on the 
correct side of dharma required one to explore and seek all 
options and opportunities. If war was to be fought, to allow for 
people to live honorable lives, and if evil was to be vanquished, 
then it was in the role of rulers to fight on behalf of those who 
could not do so. Arjuna explained in great detail to sage-Indra 
about rightful living, the dignity of human lives, the role of hte 
king, and the need to retain the security of the kingdom. 

Pleased, the sage-Indra revealed his true self, and Indra, in his 
divine form, appreciated the determination of Arjuna and his 


rudra - amazing archer 

understanding of the aspects of war, especially against one's own 
cousins and elders. Indra advised Arjuna that it would not be 
sufficient to assume that seeking the use of the great astras 
would be enough, for it would also need to be understood that 
other great warriors, kings and rulers would also have sought and 
received similar blessings. 

Indra knew that Kama, Ashwattama, Bheeshma, Dronacharya, 
Kripacharya, Duryodhana and Jayadratha were tremendous 
warriors and knew the many intricate aspects of using the best of 
weapons and super-weapons. Several other kings, great warriors 
and demi-gods, asuras, rakshasas and forest-tribes would also 
assemble for such a war. The grandsire Bheeshma alone could 
match any warrior, war for war, strategy for strategy, weapon for 
weapon and would never tire. 

Indra informed Arjuna that he would certainly bless his own son 
with the weapons that he desired, but it would also be necessary 
that he should gain the use of far greater and more dangerous 
weapons. Arjuna would have to continue with his meditation and 
seek the blessings of Rudra, or Shiva himself, and request for the 
use of the most tremendously dangerous weapons. Later, Arjuna 
could return to Indra, and he would gain access to the 
thunderbolts and other astras and learn about their use in detail. 

Knowing that Indra was correct, Arjuna agreed with him, and 
continued in his meditation, seeking out Rudra. 


rudra - amazing archer 

Kiratarjuniya - the battle 

The Kiratas are people of the higher Himalayas, and Rudra, or 
Shiva, was known to be Kirata-Raja (= King of the Kiratas). 
Known to be lion-like (= Kira) in courage, the Kiratas were once 
assumed to be the mythical lion-headed tribes, known as the 
Kimpurushas. Known also from the Ramayana, the Kiratas are 
mentioned by Rama in the Yoga Vasishta, and are known to be 
geographically close to the Ahura-desa (= modern day Iran). 
From pre-vedic times, the Kiratas were known to be followers of 
Shiva, and participated in his rituals, wars and ceremonies. 

As Kirata-Raja, Rudra was always depicted as a tribal chieftain, 
an expert archer, and protector of the local lands. The Kiratas 
were devoted to their king, and knew that he would never fail 
them. They protected their lands, animals and waters from 
outsiders, whenever threatened. 

This was one of the main reasons that they tolerated the presence 
of Arjuna in their region, while he meditated upon Shiva. For, 
after all, the outsider sought the blessings of their own Kirata- 
Raja. He had not hunted their animals and had not attempted to 
take away their lands. The Kiratas knew that this ascetic- 
meditator had entered their land more than five months ago. 

Arjuna had clad himself in rags, deerskin and fed himself with 
withered leaves, picked from the ground. During the first month, 
he ate fruits from the forest, once in three days, and during the 
second month, once in six days. In the third month, Arjuna ate 
only twice, and in the fourth, he stopped eating completely. He 
supported himself solely by inhaling air. During the fourth and 
the fifth month, he stood on his toes, without any support to lean 
upon, with arms upraised. 


rudra - amazing archer 

The severity of the austerities practiced by Arjuna created 
tremendous energy around him and caused him to be noticed by 
the sages, gods and demi-gods in the region. They did not know 
of the purpose of his meditation, but they did know that the 
chosen favourite of Krishna was determined in his focus upon 
seeking the blessings of Rudra. 

Shiva knew the purpose of Arjuna' s meditation and also knew 
that the Pandava prince had brought his weapons with him and 
would be ready to use them if required. He wanted to test the 
young prince and determine if he would be the correct person to 
accept the responsibility of using the super weapons. How would 
he be able to disturb one who was strongly determined, and had 
been able to resist the best of divine damsels, the apsaras, of 
Indra? The answer would be to seek out Arjuna's vanity as an 
expert archer, and tempt him to interrupt his meditation. 

Shiva sought out Muka, an asura, from the Kirata forests, who 
resided within the form of a wild boar and had been troubling 
and terrorising the local people. Muka, disturbed by Shiva within 
his mind, could not think calmly or stay at peace, and ran amuck, 
charging and attacking anyone who came in his way, and thus, 
came to charge at Arjuna who was seated peacefully, focused in 
his dhyana about Shiva. Being disturbed by the charge of the 
rampaging wild boar, and immediately without adequate 
forethought, reacting only as a warrior would, Arjuna armed his 
Gandiva, the mighty bow, and released an arrow, in the form of 
a poisonous snake, that found its mark, by sinking deep into 
Muka, the boar. 

At the very moment, another arrow found its mark into Muka, 
and seemed to have hit the wild boar deep into its heart, where 
Arjuna's arrow had gone through. Arjuna walked up to the Boar 
to seek and claim his prize, and discovered the second arrow, 


rudra - amazing archer 

also in the form of a poisonous snake, and was amazed. Both the 
arrows had pierced the wild boar sharply and clearly. Arjuna 
could realise that an expert archer must have shot at the same 

Gazing around, he saw a group of Kirata men and women 
standing nearby, with one, who was taller and seemed like their 
leader, bearing a longish bow and carrying a quiver of arrows, in 
the form of poisonous snakes. The Kirata-leader spoke to one of 
the men in the group, who came up to Arjuna and asked him to 
surrender the wild boar, for, as he stated, it was the arrow of his 
leader that killed the animal. Arjuna refused, insisting that it was 
his own arrow that had pierced the wild boar before the other 
arrow, and it was by his arrow that the animal was dead, and 
therefore, he would not allow the Kirata to take it away. 

The Kirata returned and spoke to the Kirata-leader, who walked 
up to Arjuna, accompanied by an astoundingly beautiful lady, 
distinctively different from the other women in the group of 
Kiratas. The Kirata-leader carried his large and seemingly heavy 
bow and the quiver with ease and said, "O ascetic, why do you 
claim the animal when you seem to be practicing austerities 
without food? How do you dare to hunt animals in our lands? 
This animal is mine, for it is by my arrow that it was killed. I do 
claim the animal and I will take it with me." 

Arjuna, in his mind, the favoured one of Krishna, the best of the 
warriors known to Drona, Bheeshma and Kripa, and the 
vanquisher of Indra in the battle for the Khandava forests, was 
amazed at the audacity of this tribal warrior in these remote 
lands. How did this forestland warrior even have the courage to 
speak to him and challenge him for his prize? Perhaps it was 
because his people and the beautiful lady, who seemed to be his 
spouse, accompanied him. 


rudra - amazing archer 

Arjuna asked the Kirata-leader, "Who are you, O warrior from 
these forests? How dare you challenge me? Who are you to 
question me about the purpose of my austerities for my Shiva?" 

"This animal was but the garb of an asura, who desired to attack 
me," Arjuna said, "I killed him, and freed the daanava from his 
life-skin within the animal. The body of the animal belongs to 
me, whether I consume it or not. It is the manner of the hunt, and 
of the result of the arrow that flew out of this magnificent bow 
that I possess. Do not challenge me, O warrior of these forests, 
for I am a renowned warrior from a royal lineage, and I could 
easily defeat you. Go away, with your people, and live in peace 
somewhere else." 

Shiva, as the Kirata-leader, smiled at Arjuna's ego, and replied, 
"O warrior from the plains, for it is obvious that you are not from 
our mountains, why is it that you chose this very place of our 
very own Indrakila Mountains? This is our kingdom, and all the 
people, animals, land, water and trees belong to us. Even if we 
assume that it was your arrow that killed the animal, it still 
belongs to me. And, we take what belongs to us." 

"Your talk of war, of fighting us, does not frighten warriors of 
the Himalayas. We do not need to be renowned and we do not 
belong to royal families. We belong here, and we know how to 
defend ourselves. You have come here to practice your 
austerities, and to search for your gods. Go ahead and do your 
task. Leave the hunting and killing to us, for the animals of these 
regions belong to us." 

Angered by the disdain and scorn of the Kirata-leader, Arjuna 
picked up his Gandiva, strung an arrow in it, and said, "O 
warrior of these mountains, beware of my magnificent bow, for I 
have armed it with one of the most powerful of arrows. Once 


rudra - amazing archer 

armed, I cannot but use it against anyone whom I consider to be 
my enemy. By your persistence in opposing me, and in your 
determination to take away this animal, that is my prize, I would 
have no other option but to challenge you to fight me for its 
possession. It is a definite possibility that you would perhaps 
lose your life in fighting me. Beware." 

At these words of challenge, the Kirata-leader actually seemed 
pleased, and appeared to have become more resplendent in 
stature, and taller. He seemed to be eager to fight with Arjuna, 
who looked keen to shoot his arrow, kill the Kirata-leader and 
get the battle completed. He wanted to return to his austerities 
and focus upon Shiva. 

The Kiratas looked totally eager at the prospect of a battle by the 
Kirata-leader, and were obviously confident of the Kirata-Raja's 
prowess. Arjuna did not realise that he would have been seen to 
be incapable of a battle, for he had thinned down after his 
austerities in favour of Indra and later, Shiva. The Gandiva 
seemed taller and larger than the ascetic-warrior. On their part, 
the Kiratas were also keen that their King should be able to take 
over the prize that they assumed to be theirs. 

Weapon to weapon, the Gandiva was obviously the superior one, 
thought Arjuna, and yet, the arrows in each quiver seemed 
similar. They shone in their brilliance, looking like poisonous 
snakes drawn taut, waiting to release their venom at the moment 
of impact. The arrows shook, impatient in their quivers, the heat 
of their energies bringing forth sparks of fire, and made them 
appear more eager than the warriors for the battle to begin. 

The tall and beautiful woman alongside the Kirata-leader seemed 
to be pleased with the aspect of the battle to be fought, and 
looked confident that the Kirata-Raja would definitely win 


rudra - amazing archer 

against the ascetic-warrior. Arjuna kept glancing at the lady, but 
found himself incapable of looking at her straight in the eyes. He 
could not watch her for more than a moment. 

The Kirata-leader picked up his bow, and in the eyes of Arjuna, 
the weapon seemed to grow, and become larger and glowing like 
a wand of fire. The Kirata-Raja looked happy and eager to fight. 
At the very moment, the sounds of the birds, the flowing water 
and all of creation seemed to cease. A golden glow enveloped 
the skies, as if the gods were keen to watch Rudra about to begin 
battle with the warrior son of Indra. 

Arjuna stood near the slain Muka, narrowing his focus away 
from the forests around him, away from the dead animal, away 
from the beautiful lady whom he could not dare watch for more 
than a fleeting moment, and brought himself to focus upon the 
Kirata-leader as his target. The arrow was already in the 
Gandiva, ready to fly away, seeking its destiny, and the great 
bow seemed to know that there was a battle to be fought. 

The Gandiva was ready, and so was Arjuna. He released the 
arrow and it sped away to seek the Kirata-leader in a very minute 
fraction of a moment. And yet, the Kirata seemed to have all the 
time that he needed. He strung his bow after Arjuna had released 
the Gandiva, aimed at the speedily approaching arrow and hit it 
cleanly with his own arrow, and followed up rapidly with 
another arrow that sped away towards the ascetic -warrior. 
Arjuna was amazed. He had never met a warrior who was able to 
meet the arrows from the Gandiva in mid-air and react faster 
than this Kirata. 

The ascetic and the Kirata fought their battle, arrow for arrow, 
swifter than the earlier, without being able to hit each other. 
They seemed the equal, both amazing archers, with their bows 


rudra - amazing archer 

like a natural extension to their arms, and the arrows like mere 
additional fingers on their palms. They knew their quivers, and 
knew the arrows without looking at them. They knew the arrows 
to choose, and react with, by looking at the arrow that the other 
would shoot. Their quivers seemed to work with them, with 
unending arrows that kept appearing within, eager, excited and 
full of energy, anticipating the moment that they would be 
chosen and allowed to search for the best of the warriors, ever. 

Realising that lone arrows were not going to be able to pierce the 
skills of the Kirata-warrior, Arjuna released a shower of arrows 
on him, each one capable of decimating powerful and skilled 
warriors. The Kirata, Rudra himself, smiled, and met the shower, 
arrow for arrow, separately, disdainfully, with his own shower of 
arrows, and magically brought up more time to be able to release 
a separate shower of arrows at the ascetic-warrior. 

Amazed, Arjuna wondered about the battle and about the Kirata- 
King. Who could he be? So unlike the other Kiratas, and 
amazingly skilled in battle, and able to meet the challenge of 
Dhananjaya himself and to be able to fight with better abilities. 
Very few warriors could fight with such skills. Drona, his 
perceptor, Bheeshma, the grand-sire, Kripa, his mentor, Krishna, 
his beloved friend and, perhaps Kama, on a chosen day, could 
match the abilities of Arjuna in battle. But, none of them, on any 
of their best days, could have shown their prowess in archery as 
the Kirata on that day. 

The Kirata, understanding Arjuna's puzzlement, taunted him, "O 
ascetic, why do you not cease? Not a single one of your arrows 
has touched me. Why do you carry such a mighty bow, if you 
cannot use it properly? You seem to have an excellent collection 
of arrows, and an unending quiver. But, obviously, you do not 
know how to fight a battle. I am, but merely a forest-warrior, 


rudra - amazing archer 

wandering about in these high Himalayas, shooting my arrows 
only for hunting in these forests. You are not even able to fight 
me. Why do you waste your time to meditate? On whom do you 
meditate? What would be the use of your meditation, if you 
cannot even fight against a lone forest-dweller?" 

Angered by the words, continuing with the shower of arrows 
against each other, Arjuna replied, "O warrior from these remote 
hills, you are indeed lucky, for I do not have the strength to fight 
you properly. I have been practising austerities for the past many 
months and do not seem to be able to attack you with better 
strength. My Gandiva does not fail me. It is I who fail my bow. 
If I had been stronger, you would not have been alive after my 
first arrow. A mere twang of my Gandiva would have been 
enough in my stronger days to have fear flowing through 
yourself and among your people in this region. Today, I am not 
strong enough, but I am indeed sufficient to kill you. You will 
not live to see the next day, and for this, I apologise to the lady 
with you, for I will kill you." 

The Kirata smiled, and answered Arjuna with an ever-increasing 
shower of arrows that tested the great warrior to his ultimate 
skills. The arrows of the Kirata challenged Arjuna by coming 
dangerously closer and closer. Partha wondered about the Kirata, 
thinking to himself. Who could this amazing archer be? He was 
certainly not a mere warrior from these hills, as he said. There 
could not be a greater archer than himself, and if there had been, 
he would have known. The gods themselves had spoken to him, 
and Indra, his celestial father, who knew everything, would have 
told him or warned him about coming to the Indrakila 
Mountains. His perceptor-tutor, Drona, had put an end to 
Ekalavya's ambitions, but that was another place and another 
time. There had been no other equal archer since then. 


rudra - amazing archer 

Arjuna wished for the battle to be over with, and wanted to get 
back to his austerities to focus upon Shiva, to seek Rudra, and 
return to his brothers, to Draupadi and to Krishna. At that very 
moment, when he desired to return to Shiva, Arjuna faltered, and 
his quiver seemed to fail him, for he did not have an arrow ready 
to fly from the Gandiva. The Gandiva's quiver had failed 
Arjuna. The Kirata had a bunch of arrows ready in his bow, 
about to be released. Arjuna's thoughts had been on Shiva, and 
wanted to seek him out, and, at that moment, the Kirata seemed 
to be unable to let his arrows leave his bow. 

Arjuna's arrows were exhausted, and he wondered about Agni, 
the god of fire, and his assurance, when he had blessed him with 
the Gandiva and its never-ending quiver. Who could this 
mysterious archer be, he who could withstand the never-ending 
shower of arrows from the mighty Gandiva? 

Was he a magical yaksha or asura, playing with his mind, 
wanting to make Arjuna believe that the mighty Gandiva did not 
have any more arrows? Did Agni, the god of fire, actually fail 
him, or did Arjuna fail the mighty Gandiva in some manner? He 
had come here, to these remote upper Himalayas, to the Indrakila 
Mountains, further than the high Kailasa, to meditate. How had 
he got involved in a battle? 

Getting angrier, and deciding to end the battle, even if there were 
no further arrows, Arjuna picked up the Gandiva like a mace, 
wanting to attack the Kirata-warrior, and kill him, like Bhima 
would have done. He rushed up to the Kirata, dodging his 
arrows, and attempted to hit him with the mighty bow. The 
forest-warrior, Rudra himself, merely dodged the attack, and 
plucked the enormous Gandiva from Arjuna's hands, like he 
would have pulled off a branch from a tree, and threw it aside, 
away from either of them. 


rudra - amazing archer 

Furious, that there could be a warrior who could lift the mighty 
Gandiva, leave alone pull it out of his hands, and throw it away 
in scorn, Arjuna lost all reason. He pulled out his sword, with the 
golden hilt, to attack the Kirata. He attacked the forest-warrior, 
and hit him on the head, with his strong sword. Even a weaker 
attack than this would have killed many a stronger warrior, and 
yet, the sword shattered upon coming into contact with the head 
of the Kirata. 

The forest-warrior did not seem to want to retaliate and bore the 
attack with a smile. This angered Arjuna further, and he rushed 
about, picking up stones, rocks and trees, uprooting them, and 
attacking the Kirata, throwing them at him, without any strategy 
or warrior-like methods. 

He seemed to have lost all his abilities, and was fighting like any 
mere struggler would have, using the weapons that he could get 
access to. The Kirata-warrior was not injured, and did not get 
disturbed by the strange and desperate attack. He stood, smiling, 
and patient, further angering Arjuna, who finally reached the 
Kirata, and kept hitting him with his fists, blow after blow, 
without any thought, but straining to want the forest-warrior to 
suffer and be killed. 

Arjuna's fists seemed to hit the Kirata with the energy and 
strength of Indra's thunderbolts, and the forests and mountains 
around reverberated in the sounds, and the Gods above rejoiced 
in watching the battle. Devi Parvati, as the Kirata-warrior' s 
spouse, stood patiently, indulgent, in allowing her Mahadeva to 
have his amusement. She, who was the embodiment of various 
manifestations of destructive and nurturing energies, of Shakti, 
Durga and Mahakali and of being the very thought of the flames 
of Agni, stood quietly, watching the battle between Arjuna, the 
son of Indra and her beloved lord, Shiva. 


rudra - amazing archer 

Within himself, and not noticing anything around him, 
inconsolable in his anger that had taken over every aspect of his 
being, in not being able to win against this mere forest-warrior, 
Arjuna moved closer, realising that his mighty thunder-like 
blows were no match to the Kirata. He spread his mighty arms, 
which had known battle only with the bow, the sword and the 
mace, and clasped the Kirata to his breast and tried to crush him 
in a fierce embrace. 

Arjuna used all his strength, wanting to end the battle, by killing 
the Kirata. The forest-warrior, Shiva himself, smiled and allowed 
Arjuna to indulge in his own fervour. The energy of the two 
great warriors in close embrace brought forth great amounts of 
smoke, and created myriad images of a celestial battle. The 
Kirata broke free of the embrace and raised both his arms, 
clenched the palms together and hit Arjuna with all his force, as 
only Shiva could, and caused him to fall unconscious. The battle 
was over. 


rudra - amazing archer 

Rudra - the amazing archer and the supreme warrior 

Upon regaining consciousness, Arjuna was disconsolate at being 
defeated by a mere forest- dwelling warrior in these remote 
regions. The temptation to kill the wild boar had led him to stray 
from his austerities and his determination to focus upon Shiva. 
He knew that he had done wrong. For, how could the animal 
have harmed him when he was deep in his meditation upon 
Shiva? What if the animal had harmed him or killed him? Would 
he not have achieved his objective and would he not have 
reached Shiva faster? 

It would have been Shiva's task to have faced the wild boar, 
rather than assume that he, Arjuna, should have to resort to his 
aspect as a warrior and the wielder of the mighty Gandiva, and 
divert himself from his current determination to be an ascetic in 
these regions, in search of Shiva. 

Deciding to return to his austerities in search of Shiva's 
blessings, Arjuna created a clay linga in front of the Kiratas, and 
offered flowers and began worshipping Shiva with tremendous 
affection. The Kiratas stood nearby, silent, while the Kirata- 
King, Shiva himself, and Devi Parvati, as yet in the garb of the 
local forest dwellers, waited patiently. How could Shiva disturb 
his own devotee in his prayers, and how could he not accept the 

Arjuna felt a sense of calm and happiness spread within him, and 
opened his eyes, while continuing to chant the Shadakshara 
Mantra (= the six-syllable mantra = Om Namah Shivaya). To his 
surprise, he found that the flowers that he had offered were no 
longer on the clay linga and began to search for them. 


rudra - amazing archer 

And, there they were, strung as a garland, and around the neck of 
the Kirata-Raja, who stood at a distance, glowing in a golden 
hue, tall, with flowing hair, his bow and quiver shivering in 
anticipation. Puzzled, Arjuna stood up and approached the 
Kirata. As he came nearer, the Kirata-King and his spouse 
seemed to change within his eyes, and the image became clearer 
and clearer. 

Arjuna was instantly dismayed at the obvious realisation. How 
could he have been so blind? How could he have succumbed to 
his ego in such a manner? How could he have not realised that 
the best of warriors, the most amazing of archers, Mryutyunjaya 
himself, had come to challenge him? 

Immediately, at the very moment of realisation, Arjuna felt an 
absolute sense of happiness and satisfaction. The guilt at being 
distracted from his meditation and the stubborn persistence to 
fight with Maheshwara himself was forgotten. His inability to be 
victorious in the battle as an archer against the most amazing 
archer seemed to be as much a victory for having tested himself 
against Mahadev. Arjuna rushed over to the Kirata-Raja and 
prostrated at his feet, overcome with bliss and contentment. 
Nothing could be better than this very moment, Arjuna felt, at 
being in the presence of Shiva and Devi Parvati, in their lands, in 
the upper Himalayas, among their ganas (= Shiva's followers at 
Kailasa, the Kiratas). 

Shiva was pleased, and was happier to see the effect that the 
austerities of the previous months had inflicted on Arjuna' s 
body. He saw the blood from the battle had covered Arjuna's 
body, and yet, he could understand the sense of victorious 
achievement that the warrior-ascetic felt upon realising defeat at 
Rudra 's hands. 


rudra - amazing archer 

Shiva bade Arjuna to rise, and said, - 

"O Dhananjaya, you who have no parallel 

among any archer, 

you who are so close to my own heart, 

for being so close to Kesava, 

you who are similar in skills 

in wielding the mighty bow, 

like Vishnu had been, 

when born as Rama, 

I am happy." 

"You were able to fight me, 

arrow to arrow, battle for battle, 

and never ceased. 

You are truly at your pinnacle, 

for there are none who have fought me 

and survived, and if they did, 

it was at my pleasure." 

"I am happy with you, O Partha, for you have risen above your 
existence as a warrior, and you have risen higher in your search 
and determination, and thus, you have risen much higher, from 
your status as a prince, who need not have inflicted such 
punishment upon himself. Indra's son, you are so close to 
Madhava himself, you did not need to choose to wander about in 
the forests and yet, you did so." 

"You fought me, and you fought me truly well. The mighty 
Gandiva, the chosen weapon of the gods themselves, is safe with 
you, and I know, as do the other gods, that you will use it 
excellently in war. Your never-ending quiver, the mighty 
Gandiva with you, your knowledge of the most supreme of 
mantras for use of the best of astras, will never fail you in battle, 


rudra - amazing archer 

for you and the Pandavas are soon to go into the biggest battle of 
all time. It will be spoken of and mentioned for several hundreds 
of generations to come, and the gods themselves will be 
watching you, Muralidhara, Bhima, Abhimanyu, Duryodhana, 
Bheeshma, Drona, Kripa, Kama and several other maharathis, 
fight the greatest of battles." 

"I am aware of the reason for your search for me. You are the 
most able of all the warriors who would fight in the Great War to 
come. You are truly the best among them to receive the most 
ferocious of astras that I possess, and I know that it is only you 
who could utilise them at the correct moment and retain them 
with the responsibility that they would require. My astras can 
destroy enormous numbers of people, extensive regions, 
tremendous aspects of creation, or all of creation itself." 

"I shall give you the weapons that you so desire. Use them 
wisely and cautiously. Even the gods cannot be trusted to use the 
astras as I would want them to. They would be tempted to 
experiment, destroy and disturb the aspects of creation in this 
world and in the entire cosmos, and they would not know how to 
correct their mistakes. You will need to decide the use of the 
astras that you would receive from me, with great caution, and 
avoid any other use for them. I know that you can be trusted, for 
otherwise, Vishnu in his two splendid parallel manifestations, as 
Madhava and as Krishna Dwaipayana, or Maharishi Veda Vyasa, 
would not have asked you to seek me, and Indra, your father, 
would not have asked you to seek my weapons." 

Arjuna rose from his prostate position at the feet of his beloved 
Mahadeva, and sat, on one knee, and gazed at the amazing archer 
and his mighty bow, quiver and at Devi Parvati standing next to 
him. He realised that he was looking upon Kailasapati himself, 
glowing in his brilliance, with the most beautiful Uma, and 


rudra - amazing archer 

worshipped them with all humility and grace. Speechless, as 
anyone would be thus rendered, he struggled to find words and 
convey his prayers. 

Raising both his hands in supplication, Arjuna said, "My beloved 
lord, O Umapati, O Kailasanatha, O Mahadeva, you, who would 
also be accepted so easily by the Kiratas as their King, I worship 
you. My beloved Madhava, he who would always speak of your 
prowess as the ultimate horizon for any warrior, for any seeker 
of knowledge, for any yogi, for any ascetic, for any artiste, for 
any humble householder, I worship you." 

"You are the first among all gods. O Mahadeva, I am content to 
be merely in your presence. Who would achieve any better 
reward in war or in battle, than to be able to be in your presence, 
even if in silence and in your contemplation? I would not desire 
your weapons and I would not desire to wage any battle, if I 
could but continue to stay in your presence, and worship you, 
and Devi Parvati, for ever, as long as I live." 

"O Neelakanta, you of the blue throat, of the one who swallowed 
the poison to save the gods, O Jataadhara, you of the long locks, 
matted and tied in tresses, of the one who slowed the Ganges, I 
am content to be in your presence. You are the cause of the 
cosmos, and it is you, who is the first creator, the cause of 
Brahma himself, I am most blessed to be in your presence. The 
gods come to you when they are threatened, and yet, you are the 
cause of the blessings that they would bestow on their devotees." 

"O Nageshwara, O Trylokeshwara, the one who cannot be 
defeated by the gods, the asuras or any man. You are Shiva, in 
the form of Vishnu, and you are Vishnu, in the form of Shiva. 
You are the cause of the destruction of Daksha's yagna. You 
caused the conception of Mahakali and Veerabhadra. You are the 


rudra - amazing archer 

one with three eyes. You are Hari, Shiva and Rudra. I seek your 
presence and if thus granted, I would not seek any other blessing 
from you, O Harihareshwara." 

"O Maheshwara, O Rudra, you who carry the Pinaka, you who 
are the origin of sound itself, with your Damaru, you who are the 
origin of all waters in this world, you who are known as 
Nandeeswara, because of the one who serves you, you who are 
known as Parvateswara, because of the one who loves you, I am 
the most grateful for your presence. You are the cause of all 
blessings, as you are the cause of whatever the blessings would 
achieve, O Ganadhipati, the lord of the Ganas, you are the first 
among all men, and also, the one who is sublime to all forms of 
love. I worship you, O Digambara." 

"I seek your blessings, and before I seek what you would in any 
case bestow on your devotee, I seek your forgiveness. I seek 
strength in being able to fight my ego, in being able to fight my 
lack of humility. I seek that all-knowing third eye, to be able to 
see through all situations, and events, and relations. I dared to 
fight you, and you did not punish me. I dared to lift my Gandiva 
against you, and you did not kill me. You could have killed me 
easily, with your arrows, and yet you did not. Your arrows could 
have easily pierced me without any effort, and yet you did not do 
so. I am aware that it was your own blessings to allow me to 
continue to fight with you, without your arrows finding their 
mark within me. You could have easily killed me with your very 
first arrow, but you did not do so. Each arrow from your bow 
was a blessing to me." 

"O Sankara, forgive me. You are the beloved of my Krishna, O 
Rudreswara, I seek your forgiveness for my arrogance, for my 
ego, for having fought against you. O Yogi, O Yogeswara, it is 
your asceticism and patience that allowed me to fight you for 


rudra - amazing archer 

such a long time, as you did. I seek your blessings. I worship 
you, with all my devotion. I worship you, on behalf of all the 
good deeds that my mother would have accomplished, on behalf 
of all the good deeds that my brothers would have achieved. I 
seek your grace in understanding my faults. I seek your 
benevolence in understanding that my challenge to the most 
amazing archer of all, O Pasupateshwara, my war against you 
was born out of pure ignorance of your presence." 

Maheshwara smiled, as did Uma, and took Arjuna's hands in his 
own, and blessed him, with all his love and affection, as only he 
can. Shiva said, "O beloved of Kesava, O Kaunteya, O Phalguna, 
you can never commit a wrong, for you are the cause of all 
actions that my Hari would cause to happen. You, who are close 
to my Hari, can never be seen to be in the wrong of Hara. You, 
who spoke of my Nandi, who spoke of my beloved Parvati, who 
spoke of my beautiful Kailasa, who thought of me as Vishnu, 
and thought of Vishnu as Shiva, stay happy. You do not need to 
be forgiven. Arise, my Partha, for you are close to Vishnu, and 
are as excellent an archer as he was, as Rama. It was my bow, 
that Hari chose as Rama, as did he earlier, as the wielder of the 
great axe, as Parasurama, and it is yet he, who sends you, to seek 
the most powerful of all weapons, the most dangerous of all 
astras, the Pasupata." 

"You were Nara, as the perpetual companion of Narayana 
himself. You, O Arjuna, as Nara, you were an ascetic, known for 
the severity of your austerities, that lasted for several thousands 
of years, as the humans would know time to be. You are known 
to be as strong as Vishnu himself. And yet, in any birth of yours, 
you were not informed of your own strength, unless you could 
acquire the skills to utilise your strength to the best of your 
ability with accompanying responsibility." 


rudra - amazing archer 

"It is you, as Nara, and Kesava, as Narayana, who are custodians 
of this Universe, that was created by me. It is only you and 
Krishna, who can twang the mightiest of any bow created by the 
gods or by any man. The Gandiva has found its way to the best 
warrior ever. It was by illusion that I could exhaust your quivers 
of its arrows and again, it was by illusion that I could grab the 
Gandiva away from you." 

"Foremost among the blessings that I would grant you, O 
Arjuna, I give you, once again, quivers that would never be 
exhausted. O son of Kunti, O beloved of Madhava, it is with the 
best of my love and affection for you, O Kaunteya, I grant you 
my second blessing that you would never suffer from any form 
of disease or pain. Your skill, abililty and expertise in war can 
never be bettered by anyone in the battlefield. You would have 
no enemy who cannot be defeated by you." 

"O Partha, ask me what you will, for I am most happy with you. 
I have fought the best of gods in many battles, and I have fought 
the best of asuras, rakshasas and danavas in the worst of battles. 
It was the prowess in your archery that made me bring out the 
best of my skills. There has never been a warrior or god or 
enemy who could challenge me to the best of my abilities in 
archery as you did. It has been many thousands of years since I 
have been able to achieve as amazing an excellence in archery as 
I could, when fighting against you. It is your skill and perfection 
in the use of the Gandiva that the mighty weapon has to achieve 
the same speed and ability, as you would require in battle. The 
mighty Gandiva does not fail you, and matches you well." 

Chastised, humbled, happier, content and continuing in his bliss, 
Arjuna bowed before Shiva and Parvati, and said, "Devi, bless 
me for being able to continue to seek Maheshwara's grace 
forever. O Nandeeswara, I wish to ask of you, the most powerful 


rudra - amazing archer 

weapon of all, the Pasupata, that one single weapon that has the 
power to destroy all of creation. I ask this of you, O Rudra, for it 
is this very weapon that symbolises all the terror if possible, of 
destruction that is possible, of the conflict that can be possible, 
and of the release of the most terrible of all destructive energy 
that can be possible. I ask the Pasupata from you, O Eswara." 

"In the Great War that is to come, in the greatest of all battles 
that would be fought, I would be facing the best of all warriors, 
and would fight my perceptor, Drona, who would know all that I 
know, my grand-sire, Bheeshma, who would know all the 
strategies that I would know of. I would fight the mentor of all 
the Pandavas and Kauravas, the great Kripacharya himself, and 
he would know of all the manner of battles that we would fight, 
and I would fight the one warrior I would not wish to challenge 
in war, Kama, the son of a charioteer, and yet, he is the one 
single warrior who would be able to fight me, arrow for arrow 
astra for astra and mantra for mantra." 

"Along with these great warriors, there would be hundreds of 
other armies, of hundreds and thousands of warriors, asuras, 
daanavas, demi-gods and nagas, and all other tribes and 
kingdoms that would be fighting on the side of the Kauravas. I 
need weapons that would allow me to kill them by the hundreds 
and I need weapons that would help me kill them by the 
thousands. I would also need weapons that would choose the 
best of warriors in a battle, and allow me to challenge them, skill 
for skill, and strategy for strategy, and come out, as the victor in 
each conflict." 

"O Someswara, I seek your blessings in obtaining weapons that 
could be multiplied in strength and would produce multiple 
weapons when released through the knowledge of specific 
mantras. I seek your blessings in the knowledge of these very 


rudra - amazing archer 

mantras that would help me in battle. There would be no other 
manner in which I would obtain victory in war against 
Bheeshma, Drona, Kripa or Kama." 

Shiva, in presence of Uma, blessed Arjuna, and said, "O Arjuna, 
you would be the most powerful in any battle. I grant you the use 
of the most powerful weapon of all, the Pasupatastra. O son of 
Indra, you would be the only warrior who would have the control 
over the astra, and would be the only one who would be able to 
hold the powerful weapon. You would be the only warrior who 
would be able to use it in battle, or withdraw it after it would 
have been cast against an enemy." 

"No god, not even Indra, nor Yudhistra's father, Yama, the god 
of death, nor Varuna, nor Vayu, can use the Pasupatastra. There 
has been no god, no asura, nor any rakshasa, who has been 
allowed to use the powerful astra. You would be the first human, 
O son of Kunti, who can use the Pasupatastra. But, let me warn 
you, O Kaunteya, the astra, the most powerful of all, should 
never be used in battle or against an enemy without any adequate 
cause, and without protecting the aspects of creation to be 
excluded from its anger. The mantra should be specific to 
choose the enemy, whom you would wish to be destroyed by the 
astra. This astra can be hurled by you, O Partha, with a mere 
thought in your mind, with a mere word, by use of the mantra, 
and also by stringing it within the Gandiva." 

Hearing Shiva speak thus, and hearing him grant the blessings 
that he had asked for, Arjuna bowed in gratitude, and said, "O 
Rudreswara, you who are the one who would bless me with the 
Pasupatastra, grant me knowledge of that mystery, the magic 
and the mantra of using the most powerful of all your astras." 


rudra - amazing archer 

It is never been written and has never been known, the manner of 
the secret from purana to purana, from stotra to mantra to yantra, 
that the most amazing archer of all, Pasupateswara himself, for 
Rudra, it was he, who instilled the secrets of the use of the 
Pasupatastra, to Arjuna. It is said that there are only a very 
select few, of those whom Shiva agreed to allow the use of the 
astra, who knew of how to use the most powerful weapon of all. 

And, thus, it came into being that, on that eventful day, Arjuna, 
the Savyasachi, was seen with his mighty Gandiva by his side, 
and with the powerful Pasupatastra, for there were only a very 
few who were blessed by Shiva, that they could see and thus 
receive his grace. 

By his touch, Shiva enabled Arjuna to gain the strength that he 
had given away in pursuit of his austerities, and purged him of 
all the evil, his entire ego, the impatience and the arrogance of an 
imperfect warrior. From that moment when Shiva blessed the 
great warrior with his mere touch, it became impossible for 
Arjuna to be wrong in battle, in his manner of thought and 
strategy. Shiva blessed him to forever be accompanied by the 
mighty Gandiva and the Pasupata. 

Arjuna bowed again in gratitude, with the two mighty weapons 
by his side, and offered his prayers to Pashupati and Devi. Both, 
Shiva and Parvati, blessed the mighty Pandava. In front of his 
very eyes, Arjuna watched, as the first of the gods, Rudra, with 
Uma by his side, rose high up into the nearby mountains and into 
the skies and the clouds that took them instantly in their folds. 


rudra - amazing archer 

In search of Shiva - further reading. 

Ashish Khokar and S. Saraswati, 2001. Shiva-Parvati. 
Rupa and Company, New Delhi. 

Campbell, J. 2003. Myths of Light: Eastern Metaphors of the 
Eternal. Novato, California: New World Library. 

Cappeller, C. 1912. Bharavi's poem - Kiratarjuniya: or, 
Arjuna's combat with the Kirata. Harvard University. 

Chaturvedi, B. K. 2009. Shiv Purana. Diamond Pocket Books. 

Dabral, S. P. Uttarakhand ka itihas. Volume 2. Vir-Gatha 

Devdutt Pattanaik, 2003. Indian Mythology: Tales, symbols and 
rituals from the heart of the Subcontinent Inner Traditions 
/Bear and Company. 

Devdutt Pattanaik, 2006. Shiva to Shankara. Decoding the 
phallic symbol. Indus Source Books, Mumbai. 

Dowson, J. 1888. A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology 
and Religion, Geography, History and Literature. Trubner and 
Co., London. 

Godbole, N. B. and K. P. Parab. eds. 1885. The Kiratarjuniya of 
Bharavi: with the commentary (the Ghantapatha) of 
Mallinatha. Nirnaya Sagara Press. 


rudra - amazing archer 

Har, S. 1983. Bharavi and Kiratarjuniyam:A critical study. 

Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar, Calcutta. 

Mukharji, R. 2009. Hindu Shabyata. Rajkamal Prakashan 
Private Limited. 

Pandit, D. and Parab, K. P. 1895. The Kiratarjuniya of Bharavi - 
With the commentary of Mallinatha and various readings. 
Tukaram Javaji. 

Peterson, I. V. 2003. Design and rhetoric in a Sanskrit court 
epic: the Kiratarjuniya of Bharavi. State University of New 
York Press. 

Ramesh Menon, 2006. Siva. The Siva Purana retold. 
Rupa and Company, New Delhi. 

Saklani, D. P. 1998. Ancient communities of the Himalaya. 

Indus Publishing. 

Schomerus, H. W. 1912. Saiva Siddhanta. An Indian School of 
Mystical Thought. Edited by H. Palmar. Translated by Mary Law 
(1979). Motilal Banarasidass Publishers Pvt Limited, New Delhi. 

Subba, T. B. 1999. Politics of culture: A study of three Kirata 
communities in the eastern Himalayas. Orient Blackswan. 

Warder, A. K. 2004. Indian kavya-literature. Part 1. Motilal 
Banarasidass Publishers Private Limited, New Delhi. 


The great Nandi facing the Kiratarjuniya sculpture at the Kailasanathar 
Temple, Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu. Photo: Bharat Bhushan. 

About the Author: Bharat Bhushan - An eclectical and serendipitous 

The ancient Kiratarjuniya sculpture is at the Kailasanathar Temple at 
Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu. Photo: Bharat Bhushan 

© Harini 

ISBN-978-81-909471-4-5 (Paper Edition) 

ISBN-978-81-909471-5-2 (Internet e-Edition)